By Maggie Moore
ELLSWORTH — Today, there are no successful treatments for Alzheimer’s disease.
Judith and Anthony Evnin, Ph.D., are giving $1.5 million to The Jackson Laboratory to establish the Evnin Family Endowed Chair in Alzheimer’s Research. Catherine Kaczorowski, Ph.D., a Jackson Lab neuroscientist who is taking a bold approach to combat Alzheimer’s, has been appointed chairholder.
There is currently no drug that can prevent, cure, or even substantially reduce the rate of decline of an individual with Alzheimer’s. The disease currently affects 5 million Americans. While there is much promising research about finding treatments for Alzheimer’s, including the variants and genetic factors that might trigger it, Kaczorowski’s work is different in that it focuses on the genetic factors that protect individuals from the devastating disease, even when they carry a genetic predisposition toward it.
Kaczorowski’s lab uses The Jackson Laboratory’s unique mouse models to identify the protective factors that determine whether Alzheimer’s progresses, and how rapidly. She calls these protective factors “biomarkers of resilience,” and hopes one day to use that knowledge in the development of new therapies for Alzheimer’s.
“We’ve studied risk in Alzheimer’s disease for a long time and it hasn’t translated into an effective therapy,” says Kaczorowski. “Sometimes in science we need to flip the question on its head: stop focusing on risk and start focusing on resilience. My hope is that the identification of these resilience factors will unmask new therapeutic strategies that no one has ever thought about before.”
“Dr. Kaczorowski is approaching Alzheimer’s from a novel perspective and one that we believe might eventually lead to prevention of or treatments for the disease,” says Anthony Evnin, who is also a member of the laboratory’s board of trustees. “We are thrilled to support the innovative Alzheimer’s research under way in her laboratory.”
The lab’s board of trustees has elected to match the Evnins’ gift by designating an additional $1.5 million of the laboratory’s funds toward the chair.
“The Evnin Family Endowed Chair in Alzheimer’s Research demonstrates how the combination of cutting-edge science and generous philanthropy positions The Jackson Laboratory to make dramatic strides in human health,” says David J. Roux, chairman of the laboratory’s board of trustees. “The Evnins exemplify just how much is possible when we invest in the next generation of researchers and their new approaches to combating genetic diseases like Alzheimer’s.”